The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on Tuesday, June 14, urged Congress to lift the current restriction in the law that prohibits enroute bus inspections and pledged to immediately encourage all state members to take aggressive enforcement action when warranted.
“SAFETEA-LU enacted this restriction, which has removed a critical tool designed to immediately identify driver and mechanical safety issues, hampering enforcement’s efforts,” said CVSA Vice President David Palmer in his testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on how to improve bus safety. “We are firm believers that many more lives could be saved and injuries avoided if enroute roadside inspections were once again permitted to allow states to conduct these inspections when and where necessary.”
All states have bus safety and enforcement programs in place ensuring the safety of passengers, which reflect their differing needs. For example, many states on the east coast need to target “curbside” operators, those that do not typically operate out of a fixed location or terminal. Palmer said enroute inspections are often the most effective way to inspect them.
Palmer cited another big challenge in the industry – “chameleon” carriers, those that frequently change names and U.S. Department of Transportation numbers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, working cooperatively with states, must be given the authority to transfer past safety performance activity from one carrier to another when it’s discovered they are substantially the same operation, he said.
CVSA recommends that FMCSA be given more authority over brokers and that companies that purchase transportation for a customer or customers need to be held accountable for not conducting the proper due diligence for safety, Palmer said. CVSA recommends that brokers who are discovered not doing the proper due diligence and are hiring unsafe operators need to be shut down, Palmer said.
Unlike trucking companies, inter-city passenger carriers have been exempt from any hours-of-service changes in recent years. Since driver fatigue seems to have been a contributing factor in a number of recent bus crashes, CVSA recommends FMCSA study whether the current hours-of-service rules for bus drivers are adequate, and if warranted based on data and analysis, propose necessary changes, Palmer said.
“If Congress chooses to once again enable enroute bus inspections, CVSA will commit to assisting the states and FMCSA by immediately conducting enroute bus inspections, as well as continuing strike forces and other enforcement activities throughout the country,” Palmer said. “We believe this is the most appropriate and effective response to immediately impact bus safety.”